NHL.com continues its preview of the 2013-14 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.
Few teams face more questions entering this season than the Dallas Stars. With major changes in the front office, coaching staff, roster and even their uniform, it will be intriguing to see how everything comes together for a team that was a force in the League for more than a decade but has failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2008.
Here are three things to watch in Dallas early in the 2013-14 season:
1. How fast can all these new pieces come together? -- New general manager Jim Nill made major changes up front and on the blue line, and he has made it clear the Stars will be looking for a number of their prospects to make the team. It's all part of an offseason makeover for a team that added three new centers: Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Shawn Horcoff. Sergei Gonchar, acquired from the Ottawa Senators and signed to a two-year contract, is expected to solidify the defense.
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The task of turning all these parts into a team belongs to the new coaching staff. After spending 15 years behind the Buffalo Sabres' bench before being fired last season, Lindy Ruff was brought to Dallas to get the Stars back to the playoffs. He brought along assistant James Patrick from Buffalo, so the team should benefit from some continuity.
2. Can Lindy Ruff's system tilt the ice in the Stars' favor? -- Ruff became an institution in Buffalo by molding the Sabres into a team known for strong two-way play and hard work. He aims to do the same with the Stars, who could have used some of those Ruff-like qualities last season.
The Stars often appeared overmatched when it came to controlling the pace of the game. Only the Nashville Predators took fewer shots, and the Stars ranked 22nd in shots allowed. Dallas went 2-13-2 when trailing after one period, so this is a team that had difficulty wrestling momentum away from the opposition.
That's where Ruff hopes to change things.
"I think that there's no easy solution to any team becoming a good franchise. I think that takes a lot of hard work and discipline," Ruff told NHL.com. "I don't think you look at a team and think 'We need to fix this.' I think you've got to develop some consistency. You've got to develop a trust in the way you want to play and a commitment from players who want to play for one another. When you get that, it's a really powerful thing."
Ruff will benefit from having a full training camp to install his system, and from the beginning of camp he's made it clear he plans on molding a team that is aggressive up front and active on defense. How quickly his players adapt remains to be seen.
3. Will Tyler Seguin fulfill his potential in Dallas? -- Of all the Stars' offseason moves, the biggest was the acquisition of Seguin, the second player taken in the 2010 NHL Draft who showed flashes in his three seasons with the Boston Bruins of potentially becoming a franchise player. Those highlights, which include a Stanley Cup in 2011 and an All-Star appearance in 2012, were tempered by inconsistent play that landed him on the Bruins' third line through much of their run to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself. It's not just scoring a goal. There's a lot more things that come into it. I've learned that in my time," Seguin told NHL.com. "This is going to be a challenge, there's going to be some growing pains. I'm looking forward to that. I'm looking forward to overcoming that as a team. First and foremost, I'm just looking forward to earning the respect of my teammates and getting to know them."
Dallas certainly represents a new opportunity for Seguin. After spending much of his time in Boston playing the wing, he likely will move to center, his natural position, on the first line; he spent the beginning of training camp skating between Jamie Benn and Erik Cole. Seguin also voiced his intention to take on more of a leadership role, something that was difficult to do on a Boston team featuring plenty of veterans.
Ruff seemed pleased by Seguin's play during the first few days of camp.
"He's such a fluid skater. It's tough to get a read but I thought he handled the D-zone really well," Ruff said. "He makes things look effortless. He goes at a high pace but it looks a lot like he's not going at full speed."